Hennepin County panel moves transit-supporting sales tax hike

The Hennepin County Board is expected to vote next week on a sales tax increase for public transit projects.

A board committee on Tuesday approved the quarter-cent hike, which would go into effect Oct. 1.

Commissioner Peter McLoughlin said the money is meant to replace transit funds state lawmakers have declined to appropriate, and will help pay for the Southwest and Bottineau light rail lines, the Orange bus rapid transit line on Interstate 35W, and the proposed Riverview corridor between St. Paul's Union Depot and the Mall of America.

"We'll be able to make our contribution to those. The capital contribution will eliminate the state's 10 percent share, because that was slowing us down," McLoughlin said.

Several residents spoke out against the proposal at Tuesday's committee meeting. John Webster of Minneapolis said a tax hike will drive businesses and shoppers out of the county.

"If you're out buying building materials for a home, or if you're out making other big-ticket purchases, you've got a real incentive to shop somewhere else," he said.

Five metro counties already collect a quarter cent transit sales tax through the Counties Transit Improvement Board, or CTIB, which is set to disband this year.

If Hennepin County commissioners approve the tax proposal, a new half-cent sales tax will replace the metro-wide quarter-cent tax.

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